Isle de la Juventud, Cuba
03:00 (08:00 GMT)
Zahmir and his men all chambered rounds into their weapons before they pulled the boats up to the docks. The sound of gunfire had ceased and the focus had now changed to putting out the fires on the west end of the estate. The warehouse where General Vasquez stored a good number of his weapons sat adjacent to the dock. The building was almost as elaborate as the house with the same Venetian style architecture. Built from light colored bricks, it was three hundred feet long and fifty feet high.
“Go to the warehouse. See if anyone is there,” Zahmir said to one of his men in Pashto.
The man ran to the warehouse. Moments later he came back and shook his head. “It is locked. I looked in the window. It was dark and with no one inside.”
Zahmir peered up toward the burning house. The fire from the garage and west side of the mansion was raging. Embers rose high into the dark morning sky before fluttering down and out in the surrounding jungle. Men were scampering around and yelling orders in Spanish while others donned hoses and extinguishers.
“We will get no help from them. Come, let’s go look for our shipment,” Zahmir said.
Once at the warehouse, they pried open the door and entered. It was dark and the brackish air was almost overpowering. Flashlights came on and beams of light went in all directions. Zahmir pointed his up. Above was a crane on tracks. There was shelving on both sides, full of crates. All of them were labeled as holding rifles, grenades, RPG’s or various types of ammunition.
“Everyone look! Find it!”
Tension grew as time passed and his precious cargo had not been found. Zahmir tightened his fists and clinched his jaw. “I do not see it. It must be somewhere else.” The fire outside continued to burn and cast a faint orange glow inside the building. Movement outside the window caught Zahmir’s attention.
He removed the AK-101 from around his shoulder. “We will find our weapon. Come! Now!”
As they approached the door, five armed men entered the warehouse shouting in Spanish.
Zahmir’s men aimed their weapons and shouted back. Every man had their finger on their trigger. Nothing could be deciphered among the yelling. A sixth man entered the warehouse and turned on a light. His voice boomed above all the others.
There was quiet. The only sound was the subtle rattle a rifle made as whoever held it tightened or readjusted their grip. Luca’s eyes squinted and his head tilted as he looked at Zahmir and his men. He held a pistol in his right hand and pointed it at Zahmir.
“You must be Zahmir al Hamwi.”
Zahmir and his men all stood still. Their weapons aimed at the six men that came into the building. Questions rolled through his mind.
“Who wants to know? You are not General Vasquez, are you?”
Luca shook his head. “No. My name is Luca Perez and I…was the General’s second in command.”
“Was?” Zahmir asked.
“He’s dead. Professional hit. Perhaps you know something about that?”
Zahmir felt his temple thump as the blood rushed to it from his rising anger. “Why would I do that? He has my money and my weapon!” He raised his rifle and pointed it at Luca. “Do not try to cheat me or I will kill you dead right now!”
All of Zahmir’s men reaffirmed their grip on their weapons. Luca’s men did the same. Heads darted in every direction as each man eyed the other, waiting for someone to fire first.
“Hold on, hold on,” Luca screamed as he waved his hands down. The din subsided and Luca put his hands up. His pistol was still in his right hand.
“Look.” Luca holstered his pistol. He turned his head to his men on his left and right and motioned for them to lower their weapons.
Zahmir relaxed a bit but still had his rifle pointed at Luca.
“We know who did it. It was an American.”
“An American? Then why did you accuse me,” Zahmir shouted. His anger rose again and he raised his weapon and took aim at Luca. The clamor again appeared as everyone raised and pointed their guns at each other.
“Please! Calm down! I was merely testing you. Surely you can understand that. Besides, the weapons aren’t stored in here. You’ll need me to get them.”
You’d better not be playing me infidel, or you will die badly. Zahmir finally lowered his weapon and told his men to do the same. “Where is this American? Is he dead? What does he know about me and this weapon?”
Luca shook his head. “I do not know where he is or if he is dead. I’ve been fighting this fire. As far as your involvement and the weapon, he knows nothing about it.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I am! Now, do you want this weapon or not?”
Infidel pig! Zahmir let his assault rifle hang down around his shoulder. Air filled his lungs as he tried to calm himself. He smiled and walked slowly toward Luca. When he was close, he raised his left hand and put it on Luca’s shoulder. Luca smiled back.
The smile quickly faded as Zahmir jerked up his right hand and pressed the barrel of a pistol into Luca’s eye. He grasped the back of Luca’s head and leaned in. “Do not…speak to me…with such disrespect.”
Weapons went up again and were pointed at Zahmir. A bead of sweat ran down Luca’s forehead. His one open eye was wide with fear and Zahmir could feel him shaking.
“Do you understand?”
Luca nodded in short quick jerks. “Yes…yes. I’m sorry.”
Zahmir withdrew the pistol from Luca’s eye and said, “Good, now show me where the weapon is.”
Luca took a deep breath and wiped his brow. He told his men to once again, lower their weapons. “It will be okay. Let them get their weapon and they will be on their way.” He turned to Zahmir and said, “follow me.”
Luca had ordered his other men to go back to fighting the fires. He hoped that would also show Zahmir some trust. They entered the home at the midway point and followed Luca down a flight of stairs. Luca keyed a code into a security system. The door unlocked with a loud click and opened outward to reveal a long hallway with an arched stone ceiling.
“This way,” Luca said.
“Hold on,” Zahmir said. He removed his pistol from his holster and pressed it against Luca’s kidneys.
“What are you doing?”
“I don’t trust you. How do I know you’re not leading us into a trap?”
“There are only two ways in here. The way we just came and a larger door down the hall and to the right that leads to a large elevator. It has a steel gate that can only be opened from the inside.”
Zahmir nodded to his closest man. As the man went and checked out the room, Zahmir said, “We will find out soon enough if you are telling the truth. In the meantime, move inside.”
Zahmir prodded Luca with the pistol and they stepped into the room.
Aligning the walls on each side were smaller rooms with arched ceilings that were perpendicular to the main arched hallway. Each room was sealed off with iron bars. It gave the impression of a cross between an old French winery and a medieval dungeon.
Zahmir heard footsteps and looked to see the man he’d sent, return.
“He speaks the truth. No one is down here and the gate at the end is locked. We will need to unlock it to get the weapons out.”
Zahmir poked Luca with his pistol. “So far, so good. Now where is it?”
Luca pointed and said, “Third one down on the left. I’ll have to unlock it for you. Everything that you paid for is in there. You can load it on the elevator that will take you to the main level. There is a door that faces the warehouse and that’s where you can take your shipment down to the docks.”
“Okay. Let’s go,” Zahmir said.
They walked down to the third stall and Luca unlocked the traditional padlock with his keys and grabbed the gate. The squeak echoed throughout the chamber as rusty metal scraped against itself. Zahmir snapped his fingers and pointed to the cell. His men started loading the shipment on carts.
Zahmir inspected the other locked cells. “What are in these other cells?”
“Personal weapons of the general’s. Now please, you got what you’ve come for. Get it and leave so I can attend to the fires.”
Zahmir’s temper hit its tipping point. Such Insolence! Zahmir raised his pistol and shot Luca in the head. His body hit the floor like a side of beef.
Satisfaction flowed through Zahmir’s body as he watched blood ooze out of the hole in the infidel’s head. The look of shock was still in his eyes.
Bastard Pig! Zahmir reached down and grabbed the keys from Luca’s still twitching body and threw them to one of his men. “Take everything.”